Study to focus on personal scholarly archiving

May 11, 2012

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant of $143,000 to Penn State to investigate how faculty create and manage personal information collections. Led by Associate Librarian Ellysa Stern Cahoy and Associate Professor of Science Education Scott McDonald, the 15-month ethnographic study will examine in detail how faculty save, share, cite and archive scholarly information.

Cahoy and McDonald will collaborate with a team of Penn State librarians and a research anthropologist who will help conduct the study. The research team will invite selected faculty from liberal arts, humanities, social science and science disciplines to share how they build, maintain and archive their personal information collections.

"Today your personal research collection might be scattered across various platforms, workstations, or online services," said Cahoy. “You might save PDFs in one place, bookmark websites with an online service, and share citations with colleagues using another. This exploration will aid the Libraries in developing new tools and services that help scholars maximize, share and archive online information that is central to their research."

"Researchers today are overwhelmed with information and are presented daily with social media tools to help them collect and use it," said Barbara Dewey, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications. "We need to better understand whether this helps them be more effective and how we can help them better integrate these materials."

In February, Cahoy presented a paper on this topic at the 2012 Personal Digital Archiving Conference in San Francisco, titled "Faculty Member as Micro-Librarian: Critical Literacies for Personal Scholarly Archiving." In addition, she also recently authored a blog post on personal digital archiving for the Library of Congress (the post can be read at

"I believe that the future of librarianship lies not just in the physical library -- it lies in the personal libraries that people are building on their own computers and their own networks," Cahoy said.

  • Associate Librarian Ellysa Stern Cahoy.

    IMAGE: Wil Hutton
Last Updated May 14, 2012